Cured meats

Cured meats

By
Brad McDonald
Contains
5 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
978 1849497206
Photographer
Andy Sewell

On smoking

As a cooking method, smoking has transcendental powers. Meat cooked slowly over smouldering embers is mother’s milk for humankind. The smell of meats cooking low and slow over a fire will always be the culinary siren’s ground zero. The aroma is a call to arms for your instincts, as if you’re hitting the jackpot of evolutionary man. It represents sustenance. Smoked meats have sustained our culture in the South for centuries, with both hot and ‘cold’ techniques. It continues to be a fiercely protected cooking style in all Southern states, with each giving it a unique character.

Good smoking technique is mostly about heat control. Whenever possible, build your fire away from your primary cooking area. This gives you the opportunity to control the temperature around your ingredient. Once the coals have burned down a bit in the starter pile, transfer and disperse the heat by shovel as necessary to control it. You can also add new logs to the starter pile once the coals begin to burn down in order to keep it going for longer. Repeat as necessary.

Recently a number of woodchip-fuelled pieces of kit have become available to both professional and domestic chefs. Use these as a last resort to do your own smoking. Whenever possible, use kiln-dried, seasoned whole wood logs or large chunks. A common misconception about smoking is that you need to see the smoke in order for it to be happening effectively. Wood chips burn too fast to give any desirable effects to the meat. In fact, what you’re looking for is the more translucent, or blue, smoke – the type that dances about thinly in the air, not the type that comes billowing out of the smoker in a dense fog. The difference is a mild kiss of smoke that will advantageously flavour your meat versus an acrid, overpowering layer of soot coating your palate.

As the food begins to cook, keep a mildly humid environment. In addition to salting and sugaring the meat beforehand to retain moisture on the surface, you can accomplish this by two other methods: a tray of water inside your covered smoker, or a spray bottle to mist over the product. I often use the latter method with a good cider vinegar in the bottle. If you are cooking in the open air, be sure to flip your meat a couple of times, or turn the spit evenly throughout the process.

For spices and seasonings, I prefer a dry rub rather than glazing meats with a wet sauce. A dry rub is Memphis-style, the style I grew up with. A simple rub to complement a good-quality meat is where the pay-off lies. Any barbecue sauce should be a condiment, not a veil, and should only complement the meat in the same way the rub does.

All cooked meats benefit from a resting period and smoked meat is no different. For best results, always rest the finished product before serving, and carve against the grain when slicing larger meats.

Recipes in this Chapter

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